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Students Prepare for Show with a Difference

By Zoe Vaughan

Despite a lack of physical event, high schools across the state are finishing preparations for agricultural competition at this year’s Royal Adelaide Show.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Show organisers – the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of SA Inc – have had to cancel many of the usual activities however some show competition categories can still go ahead online or with social distancing measures in place.

Changes include restrictions on participant and visitor numbers at showings, shifting online for the art and photography exhibitions, and categories like beef cattle only having carcase judging.

For students, the Show represents the result of months of learning and work.

About 500 Urrbrae Agricultural High School students attend the Show each year to enter competitions, help with judging, and run the Learning Centre.

Urrbrae’s agriculture coordinator Damien Brookes said the school’s programs do more than give students the skills to enter agricultural careers: they give students opportunities to take initiative and leadership roles, develop communication skills, and prepare them for individual and team-based work environments.

“Any agriculture teacher will tell you that everybody should study agriculture,” Mr Brookes said.

“Not only does it make you appreciate the environment you live in, but [it] also teaches the fundamentals of understanding the amount of effort it takes to produce the food we eat.”

Mr Brookes said the Show rewards students for their efforts, which begin as early as the start of the year, and demonstrates the industry involves more than “just working on the farm”.

“It allows for networking in areas the students are interested in, which is quite significant,” he said.

“Quite often we see industry professionals asking for students suitable for their respective fields, so the Show provides great job opportunities also.”

Riverton & District High School agriculture teacher Milly Hoffmann said it is especially important that regional areas offer programs that interest students considering pursuing careers in agriculture.

“Riverton is an area of high agricultural production,” Miss Hoffman said.

“It is imperative that students learn about what is in their local area to spark an interest in potential professions that they might like to go into.”

Riverton & District High School was awarded the Merino Wethers Scholarship earlier this year, which Miss Hoffmann says will help support the agriculture program’s future.

The scholarship will fund students to participate in the Schools’ Merino Wethers Competition, an event run by the Show Society Foundation to encourage young people to become familiar with, and possibly pursue careers within the Merino industry.

“As the school is situated in a dominant Merino area, I believe it is vital for our students to be a part of this motivational competition from both academic and vocational perspectives,” Miss Hoffman said.

Seventy participants from 37 schools have entered the competition this year, the largest in the event’s 10-year history, which takes place on September 9.

Miss Hoffmann said the competition brings the wider community together, with local businesses and the whole school all getting behind the competition team.

“The students, staff and local community are enthusiastic and determined to further support this section of the agriculture program at the school,” she said.

“The students have loved gentling their wethers, and as they bond the sheep respond in an almost dog-like manner. The competition, win or lose, is about the opportunity for students to strive for excellence and build on their repertoire of skills and experiences.”